Q: Hi Kasper, let’s start off with a bang: can you tell me something spectacular about your personal life people are dying to know?
A: My favorite personal achievements so far: I saw the Northern Lights, became a successful poet, appeared on national television over 10 times, barbecued a döner kebab cone, brought 2.5 kg of Belgian endives to Romania, collected more than 800 different energy drink cans, participated at La Tomatina in Buñol, saw the heaviest land vehicle on Earth (the Bagger 288), became a camel race host, built a snow hut, camped out on a deserted island and tie-dyed a pocket handkerchief.
Q: You should never underestimate the power of a perfectly tie-dyed handkerchief! Living through all that adventure, I’m sure you hail from a very exciting – possibly exotic – place?
A: I was born in the glorious city of Aalst, between Ghent and Brussels. It’s not the most iconic town imaginable, but you should dive into Aalst Carnaval at least once in your life. It’s a unique cultural experience.
However, I’ve been living in Ghent for the last 13 years with no plans to move soon.
Q: Why did you choose to start the Digital Arts & Entertainment program at HOWEST after obtaining a degree in Germanic languages and a teaching permit at Ghent University?
A: After secondary school, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I was leaning towards philosophy, graphic design and architecture, but in the end I chose what I was most comfortable with at the time: Dutch and English. But somewhere around the second year, I got bored with it and I heard about DAE. I didn’t care much about programming and 3D modeling — I just wanted to create game concepts and realise them. That’s why DAE attracted me: they tried to make you an ‘uomo universale’ in games. A generalist instead of a specialist.
I didn’t have the money to enroll in DAE, though, so my parents would finance this career move if I did an extra year of studying for a teacher’s degree. During my teaching internship, I realised teaching was not the perfect job for me. Constantly afraid I was teaching the wrong things to those students, it all felt like a perpetual stressful performance.
“I didn’t care much about programming and 3D modeling. I just wanted to create game concepts and realise them.”
Q: During your DAE studies, you were an intern at Ronimo Games in the Netherlands. How do you feel about game development in Belgium and how does it measure up internationally?
A: At that time, Ronimo Games was in the Dutch Game Garden at the Neude in Utrecht. Other companies like Vlambeer were right across the hallway. Because of that, this created a sense of community between all Dutch indie companies. The Belgian games industry is really small, so I think we should use every opportunity to connect companies.
We don’t have a Belgian Guerrilla Games here but we should be proud of what we produce. The general attitude towards video games is shifting in a good way, but why does a new movie get mainstream media attention, but Guns, Gore & Cannoli does not?
Q: Where did you work before joining PreviewLabs? How did you end up with a job at PreviewLabs? Can you use prior work experience in your current job? How?
A: Before I joined PreviewLabs, I worked at La Mosca in Ghent for three years. They make location-based games (The Target, now Super Cops, being the most famous one). I made most of the in-app content and designed the flow and UI. I also did the project management for a lot of the small scale projects for museums and companies. In fact, some were more or less extended prototypes. I can use that experience for my job at PreviewLabs. Sadly, La Mosca ceased to exist and became Das Box. Before I left, I made all content for the Das Box games. You can still play them, and you should!
Q: What does a work day in the life of a project manager at PreviewLabs look like? In short: what do you do at PreviewLabs, except from doing Bernard’s laundry and ironing?
A: I also do the dishes, put out the garbage and buy heaps of coffee. We’re also having a snail problem lately, so I’m quite busy hunting them down and throwing them in the neighbour’s garden.
The few bits of time I have left in between are mostly spent on juggling lots of projects. Our projects rarely last more than a month, so it’s really a coming and going of completely unrelated projects that need to be delivered asap. A lot of projects don’t even get to be green-lighted, but I also put a lot of work in them: creating proposals and design documents, brainstorming, meeting clients, and so on.
Q: What part of your job do you enjoy most?
A: Every time a client comes to us for a new concept, that’s the moment things get interesting. Brainstorming, writing down gameplay rules, making mockups… I think everyone in the company agrees that the ‘first moment’ is the best one: for developers, it’s starting a new prototype; for me, it’s outlining what the prototype should do and what it should look like.
“What I enjoy the most is outlining what the prototype should do and what it should look like.”
Q: According to you, what’s the key reason a company should work with PreviewLabs?
A: I think PreviewLabs really shines in doing stuff that’s never done before. Being at the frontier. We’re really good at combining the newest technologies for weird game concepts. It seems that the developers love those projects the most as well.
Q: Where did that love for video games come from?
A: My dad is a nerd. He’s even in an astronomy club. Naturally, he owned a Commodore 64 when I was born, so I was playing games on it before I could even read or write. During my childhood, we always had Macintosh computers, so a lot of games were unavailable for that platform. — I grew up playing Doom and Duke Nukem 3D. After that, I shifted to Nintendo. Pikmin is still one of my all-time favorite games.
Q: Can you think of a flawed game you played that could’ve done with a bit more prototyping?
A: A lot of great games have a flawed mechanic or a completely bogus minigame hidden somewhere. If board games count, I’d say Monopoly is seriously flawed and I suspect they didn’t even playtest it properly. It’s so bad in many aspects: playing time, game balance, engagement. Risk is also a horrible game in that respect. But the worst crime towards video games as a cultural product are timed events where you have to press buttons. Absolutely awful.
Q: What do you look for in a video game? An engaging narrative? State-of-the-art presentation? High octane fast paced action? All of the above?
A: Isolating a good, engaging basic game concept is essential. All other things improve the experience. I can’t really pick an aspect that stands out. A game like The Witness is gorgeous, with clever level design, an intriguing location and original puzzles. It’s a quiet, solitary affair. But I like just as much a four-player battle of Super Smash Brothers. It’s a butt-ugly, maximalist game, but it’s the most fun you could ever have in a video game.
Q: Do you still find the time in your daily life to play video games from time to time? What’s the last game you’ve played properly?
A: I rarely play video games at home on my own. When I’m traveling on public transport, I’m constantly playing Ingress, the location-based game. Also, I play local co-op games with a friend — in the past few months we’ve beaten Resident Evil 5, Borderlands 2 and Diablo 3. All in co-op mode.
Q: What game is so good you would’ve really liked to have worked on it? Why?
A: Of course, huge games like Grand Theft Auto V are so extensive and have so many flawless features that I have eternal respect for their project managers. How did they put all that work together? It was probably a nightmare, and there was no other time than crunchtime. I think I would like to have worked on co-designing the BioShock series. The narrative, the characters, the art style, the level design. All of it. And of course, I would love to work on Ultimate Chicken Horse for one day, and create some new traps.
Q: In the highly uncertain event of PreviewLabs closing down, what’s the second best game studio in the world you’d like to work at?
A: Yodeling Kidney Games. That’s a studio where I don’t have to do the paperwork, have no responsibilities at all, and all of my gameplay ideas are realised flawlessly. It also doesn’t exist.
At least you’ll always have your energy drink collection to go home to. Thanks for your time and good luck with fixing Monopoly and shielding random strangers from the dangers of quick time events.